Committee Discusses Timeline for Adopting New Mascot
Issue   |   Wed, 05/04/2016 - 00:42

A mascot committee comprised of students and alumni held its fourth meeting on April 29. The new committee is composed of students who were active in the mascot debate last fall and the members of the alumni executive committee’s mascot task force. Throughout the semester, the committee has discussed a potential timeline for democratically selecting a new mascot, as well as means of reaching out to alumni and students to inform them about the process and receive mascot suggestions.

The student members of the committee are Association of Amherst Students president Karen Blake ’17, Brianna Cook ’16, Harrison Haigood ’18, Virginia Hassell ’16, Sam Keaser ’17E, Alejandro Nino ’18, Olivia Pinney ’17, Siraj Sindhu ’17, Micayla Tatum ’16 and former AAS President Tomi Williams ’16.

The committee bases its work on the goals outlined in the board of trustees’ statement in January that announced the removal of the Lord Jeff as unofficial mascot. In the statement, board chair Cullen Murphy wrote, “The College will ask a joint group made up primarily of alumni and students to create and oversee a process that will consider a variety of mascot ideas and whether the College should officially adopt one.”

In light of alumni and student feedback from last semester, the committee judged that the community was in favor of having a mascot at their first meeting in February. They plan to officially launch a new mascot by fall 2017, at Homecoming.

Keaser said that it is important to work on the mascot issue while it still holds the attention of the Amherst community and that the 2017 launch date reflects the committee’s goal of conducting the process as quickly as possible. In terms of outreach, the committee plans to hold dorm talks and other publicity events through next semester, as well as work with affinity groups and the AAS.

“Amherst students seem to be very good at doing a lot of work very quickly, but we’re not always great at sustaining interest over long periods of time,” he said. “The way that we hope to combat that is by doing a lot of stuff early next semester and hopefully during Orientation, to hit the ground running.”

Hassell said that the committee members will be available for questions and discussions from the community throughout the semester.

The committee is currently weighing two potential timelines for a selection process. Both timelines plan to have alumni and students submit mascot ideas over the next few months, alumni in July and students at the beginning of next semester. One timeline sets a deadline for submissions in mid-October, in order to narrow down the field and hold a first vote by Homecoming 2016, on Nov. 12. The other timeline sets the deadline on Nov. 12, holding the first vote early the following spring semester. Both timelines plan to have a mascot chosen by the end of the spring semester and publicly launched in a celebration at Homecoming 2017.

The process for narrowing down mascot suggestions remains to be determined. The committee will work this month on a “criteria document” for suggestions. According to the discussions at the fourth meeting, the document will provide transparent grounds for the committee to narrow down suggestions, as well as provide guidelines for submissions. One potential criterion is that the suggested mascot not be gendered. The group is discussing other logistical questions, such as whether suggestions will be anonymous. The submission and selection process will involve extensive communication between the student body and alumni.

“We want this process to be fun and engaging for the community – students or people on campus, but also alumni,” Hassell said. “We really hope we can structure it so that it becomes a collaborative process and brings people together.”